Former YOPEY winner Kat swaps babysitting children for fruit flies

PUBLISHED: 12:05 02 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:16 11 May 2010

THE first winner of a prestigious youth award has swapped babysitting toddlers for babysitting fruit flies. Kat James, of Chiswick End, Meldreth, won the inaugural Young People of the Year (YOPEY) award in 2005. She was nominated for her volunteer work lo

THE first winner of a prestigious youth award has swapped babysitting toddlers for babysitting fruit flies.

Kat James, of Chiswick End, Meldreth, won the inaugural Young People of the Year (YOPEY) award in 2005. She was nominated for her volunteer work looking after children with Downs Syndrome at Meldreth Manor School.

Five years on, Kat, 23, is working at Edinburgh University carrying out research into the sleeping patterns of fruit flies. It is hoped the research will help tackle the symptoms of rare disease Tuberous Sclerosis Complex, which affects 8,000 people in the UK and can cause epilepsy, learning and behavioural issues and for some, disturbed sleep patterns.

Kat is convinced her YOPEY award has been beneficial to her in her fledging career.

She said: "Young people doing sometimes small things can make a big difference to others.

"I was really pleased to be nominated and the fact the nominated organisation receives some deserved recognition and a cash prize is fantastic."

Indeed, Meldreth Manor picked up £500 following Kat's award, which was used to purchase a special new computer.

The former Cambridge University student has been working at the Queen's Medical Research Institute at Edinburgh University since graduating, and said she finds her work, which involves changing the flies' circadian rhythms, or sleep patterns, through their diet "really rewarding."

She said: "If they have more sugar they become more active and if we give them proteins they get a good night's sleep."

Currently in the midst of a marathon 36-hour experiment, she added: "I don't know about their sleep patterns but mine are certainly being affected."

Now in its fifth year, the Cambridgeshire YOPEY is now open to the people in Royston too.

The brainchild of Hormead resident Tony Gearing, this year's YOPEY winner will pick up a cash prize of £1,000.

If you want to nominate a youngster, aged 10 - 25, who lives in Cambridgeshire or Royston, visit www.yopey.org or send an SAE for an entry form to YOPEY, PO Box 103, Ware, Herts, SG9 0XD for an application form.

This year's awards ceremony will be held in July at the St Ives Corn Exchange.

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